After months of discussion and planning, the ACC Board of Directors announced official plans for all fall sports today. Among other details, the ACC stated that all seven ACC-sponsored fall sports will begin competition the week of Sept. 7.
“As we look ahead to the fall, the safety of our students, staff and overall campus community continues to be our top priority,” said Kent Syverud, chancellor of Syracuse University and the chair of the ACC Board of Directors. “Today’s announcement outlines a specific path for ACC fall sports to return to intercollegiate athletic competition using comprehensive protocols put forward by our ACC Medical Advisory Group.”
The ACC Medical Advisory Group was announced May 18 and aimed to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on higher education and provide the ACC advice as the league considered return-to-play options.
The group — which includes John MacKnight, Virginia’s medical director for sports medicine — has recommended several minimum standards for each campus to follow as athletics resume. These standards range from weekly testing for close contact sports to guidelines for properly sanitizing competition areas.
The 2020 football season will include 11 games for each ACC team — 10 conference matchups and one non-conference game. While each team has the freedom to select its own non-conference opponent, the game must be played in the ACC program’s home state and the opponent must satisfy the medical protocol requirements imposed by the ACC.
Virginia football is scheduled to face Boston College, Duke, Louisville, North Carolina and NC State at home and Clemson, Florida State, Miami, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest on the road. The Cavaliers’ non-conference opponent has yet to be announced.
In addition to the schedule, the ACC’s competition structure will also look different. Rather than the traditional two-division system, all 15 teams — 14 ACC programs as well as Notre Dame — will compete in a single division. The two teams with the highest conference game winning percentage will play in the 2020 ACC Football Championship Game at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C. in December.
In terms of finances, all television revenue generated by the 2020 ACC football season will be distributed evenly between the 15 participating teams. This also includes Notre Dame’s home games, which are nationally televised on NBC.
All fall Olympic sports — field hockey, women’s soccer, men’s soccer, volleyball and cross country — are permitted to begin competition Sept. 10. The team sports will play a conference schedule that meets the NCAA’s minimum number of games, though schools will be allowed to schedule additional non-conference games as long as opponents meet the ACC’s medical standards. This means that women’s soccer, men’s soccer and field hockey will each play at least six games, while volleyball will play at least 10.
Schools will be authorized to schedule regular cross country meets at their discretion.
The ACC’s announcement comes weeks after both the Big Ten and Pac-12 announced that they plan to move to conference-only schedules for fall sports, so long as health guidelines permit. On the other hand, the Ivy League canceled all athletic competition this fall, citing health and safety concerns as well as campus policies.
In the ACC’s press release, Syverud explained further that the league understands “the need to stay flexible and be prepared to adjust as medical information evolves.” ACC leadership, in addition to the Medical Advisory Group, will continue to meet weekly to share information and discuss fall plans.
“Today’s decision was made after months of thoughtful planning by numerous individuals throughout the conference,” ACC Commissioner John Swofford said. “The Board’s decision presents a path, if public health guidance allows, to move forward with competition … We recognize that we may need to be nimble and make adjustments in the future. We will be as prepared as possible should that need arise.”
Virginia Athletics declined to comment on the ACC’s plan for fall sports.
The ACC also announced plans for winter and spring Olympic sports — competition for indoor track and field, swimming and diving and fencing has been delayed until at least Sept. 10, while all fall competition for men’s and women’s golf, men’s and women’s tennis, men’s and women’s lacrosse, rowing, softball and baseball has been canceled. All athletes are permitted to train at their university’s discretion.
As of Wednesday, Virginia has 87,993 confirmed cases of COVID-19, 7,600 of which were reported in the last seven days. The Thomas Jefferson Health District has 1,669 confirmed cases — 443 in Charlottesville and 724 in Albemarle County. So far, four student athletes have tested positive for COVID-19 since returning to Grounds for training.